A Portrait of Beauty

Article and images by Jen Howard

Read time: 3 minutes

There are stories in this world that just need to be told. A mother skunk got into trouble. A strange case actually. A basketball net tipped over on the ground and she got caught up in it. She was brought to us with a badly injured tail. Upon closer examination it was noticed she was also a lactating mom. As her tail needed treatment, she had to stay, so the finders searched for her babies, but sadly they were never found. 

However, the next part of the story will melt your heart. We had a family of six orphaned skunks already. As luck would have it, they were from the same area where mom was found. Would she take them under her wing as her own?  Well, here is the melt your heart part. She did. Momma skunk took them on as her new family and nursed them.  Acceptance. It’s so very sad about her little ones. But her new family now has a mother again. A new family formed. She watches them like a hawk, she carries them around, plays with them, snuggles. It’s just beautiful.  Six babies are a handful and these are no exception. But she is loving every minute of it because she is an incredible mother. 

Each skunk is so different, so we decided this would be an interesting story; why are stripes so varied from one family to another? One area from another. What do stripes mean? Aposematism is when an animal is telling a predator that they are not such a tasty meal through colours and patterns, and in this case, also odours. Skunks would rather not spray, since it takes up to 10 days to replenish that wonderful perfume we all love so much, but it is their only defence. It is said, that their body colours and patterns will also give them a helping hand in protection. Although most of our pets don’t see it that way unfortunately. Until that lovely skunk perfume hits them in the face and it’s too late. 

Turns out, if skunks live in an area highly populated by predators, foxes, coyotes and even large owls like the great horned, their stripe variations and patterns are less elaborate, some lacking any white at all, so they can camouflage better. On the other hand, living in a lesser predated area, skunks seem to have more elaborate colourations and patterns because camouflaging is not as much of a problem. This little family is beautiful. One half white, white on bellies, behind ears, white tails, big stripes, 2 stripes, thick stripes, stripes on faces. Absolutely stunningly adorable. Most skunk stripes also head right back to their tail because this is a straight line to their anal gland, the bulls eye warning to stay away.

So seems these little ones and this momma came from an area with less predators. When I think about it. I have had skunks where I live that were very black, barely any white, which is beautiful and so different. At that time, yes, there were more predators, such as coyotes and foxes. And yes, they were even harder for me to spot in the tall grasses. Interesting facts indeed.

Jen Howard

A Portrait of Beauty
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